Broadcasters divert programme funds for war coverage

LONDON - Extended coverage of the war on Iraq will force broadcasters the BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and Five to divert funding from new programming to meet costs of broadcasting the war.

Reports say that ITV has set aside £5.5m to cover the war through the ITN news service. Its coverage has already been hit by tragedy, with one of its leading correspondents, Terry Lloyd, being killed after coming under fire. Two of his colleagues are still missing.

The BBC, which had rolling coverage of the war on BBC Two as well as extended news bulletins on BBC One, is funding its coverage with an extra £10m set aside from its current central budget. The BBC has been simulcasting its satellite and cable news network News 24.

Sky News is also reported to have had its news budget increased, although details are not available.

Currently, budgets for covering the conflict assume that the war will be over by the end of April. Rising costs of war coverage will not help broadcasters already hit by the advertising downturn in general, as well as reluctance of some companies to advertise during a war.

Some broadcasters have been reducing the amount of advertising they have shown since the war broke out on Wednesday. Channel 4 has had fewer advertising slots during its evening news bulletin, and ITV's 'News at Nine' ran some editions with no advertising at all.

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